Celebrating the 20th year of Partnership: How Does Škoda Make the Tour de France Happen

By We Love Cycling

The 110th edition of the Tour de France and the 2nd edition of the Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift will bear witness to an extra anniversary in 2023. Škoda, the official main partner of the race, celebrates the 20th year of this spectacular alliance. So, at the Grand Départ from the Basque Country for the Tour de France, and Clermont-Ferrand for the Tour de France Femmes, the closely watched riders won’t be on their own but once again backed up by a partner with an immense passion for the sport.

Since 2004, the manufacturer has been standing by the side of the legendary bicycle race and has also been sponsoring the Škoda Green Jersey for the leader of the points classification since 2015. Much has changed in the course of 20 years, but this partnership is only getting stronger and more effective. This year, Škoda will be supplying the race organisers with 209 vehicles, mostly iV or hybrid, including the service and neutral support cars and, of course, the director’s leading car. Throw in the team cars and you arrive at the number of over 250 vehicles, which the carmaker has been sending to the race every year.

As Martin Jahn, Škoda Auto Board Member for Sales and Marketing, commented on the anniversary: “This partnership provides us with an ideal opportunity to demonstrate our firm commitment to a greener electric future while staying true to our original values and traditions, which are deeply rooted in cycling.” To elaborate on the last part of Mr Jahn’s statement, Škoda first saw the light of day as a small bicycle workshop called Laurin & Klement in 1895. Therefore, the brand’s origin ties it closely to the cycling scene.

Let’s delve a bit deeper into the individual vehicles present at the race. Starting from the top, the Tour de France’s striking leading car, officially known as Direction Generale car number 1, could without exaggeration be called the most famous motorised vehicle in cycling. Found at the launch of each stage and at the tip of the peloton, the director’s car serves as a mobile headquarters from which the directors stay in contact with their race marshals, and team and support cars. The cabin of the ‘red car’ is where the most important and split-second decisions during the race itself take place. This year, the specially adjusted  Škoda Enyaq Sportline will carry directors Christian Prudhomme for the Le Tour and Marion Rousse for the Le Tour Femmes.

Unsurprisingly, the leading car has undergone an evolution as Škoda has developed new models over the past 20 years. All three generations of the Škoda Superb model have starred as the race director’s leading car, from Superb Mk1 to Mk3. The first non-diesel model to be used was the Superb iV Mk3 in 2020, followed closely by the fully electric Enyaq model that is used to this day. The leading car’s tell-apart features include banners and decals, the ‘Velvet Red’ paint job, a yellow attachment above the windscreen, six antennas, a special horn, a flag holder, a panoramic retractable sunroof and more.

Moreover, (ex-)professional cyclists are often recruited to drive the leading car, as they know the inner workings of a peloton, thus are able to move through it deftly and efficiently. For Mr Prudhomme, this year, it’s two-time French time trial champion Gilles Maignan who retired from the sport in 2001.

Alongside the leading Škoda Enyaq Sportline, the fleet also includes mostly Octavia and Superb models. These serve as the neutral support cars, team cars and organiser cars. Neutral support cars, ‘the angels on four wheels’, carry spare bike parts, chains, cranksets, bidons with water and other things to ensure they are able to assist any cyclist in need. Shimano took over as the provider of these cars in 2022 after Mavic ceded the role to them last year, having run the service since 1977. Team cars (each team has several) are jam-packed workshops, communication centres, refreshment stations and mobile first-aid stations with mechanics on board. Oftentimes, a rider’s success hinges on the speed and effectivity of the team car so their crew is as in tune and prepared as possible.

As Mr Prudhomme commented on the role of the cars in the world-famous race: “Each Škoda car has a vital role in the smooth running of the race due to the fact that it is an event where we are almost constantly on the move.“

We are, obviously, excited about the Tour de France season and will be bringing you fresh news, intriguing snippets and insider looks from this ultimate road cycling holiday.

Don’t miss our annual Tour de France contest with extra special prizes to celebrate two decades of stellar cooperation with Škoda. Also, follow our Instagram during both the Tour de France and the Tour de France Femmes, as we will feature special behind-the-scenes coverage with Cameron Jeffers and Kasia Niewiadoma!